Lack of Resources Keeping the City in the Dark Ages

citycatThe City of Davis is structurally like an old dinosaur, built for another era of government and so encumbered by its current obligations and hamstrung by a continually sputtering economy that there is little hope that we can make the changes we need to its governmental structure to be able to fix it.

That is no small problem, but it is worth emphasizing that our policies on compensation and retirement benefits not only are costly, in terms of trying to fix them before they lead to fiscal collapse for the city, but they are costly in terms of limiting our ability for government to meet the changing needs of its citizenry.

Right now, there are things that need to be done in this city that cannot be done because we do not have the money.  There are millions sitting in unmet needs categories that we lack funding for.  We have an ongoing problem with road repairs. Road conditions are not good and, while we have had a few projects go through to upgrade the streets, those are funded through one-time grant monies that will not have a lasting impact on the overall condition of our roadways.

At some point in the next five years, we will have to divert general fund money to pay for road upgrades.

But there is a bigger problem.  Our councilmembers are largely unpaid.  More importantly, they are not afforded their own staff.  This makes them completely reliant on city staff analysis and renders it difficult for them to do independent analysis or oversight over city staff.

One place where this issue has come up is on the Zipcar issue, where council trusted city staff’s analysis, which turned out to be faulty, particularly on the issue of legal protections. Then council members relied on a Fact Sheet that turned out to be fictitious and erroneous in its claims about the contract.

The city only spends a little over $125,000 on the council.  There are no salaries and no employees to help council do a fulltime job.  That means that councilmembers either have to be independently wealthy, receiving a pension, or have a spouse contribute the vast majority of the income. 

That limits the ability of certain segments of the population to serve, and is a large reason why someone like Lamar Heystek might only wish to serve for one term.

But there is more.  The city still operates in the dark ages in communication, and this is a huge problem.  When the city does a project, they have to create paper and send out snail mail to neighbors and residents. 

It is an antiquated and very limited outreach.  Hundreds of interested citizens who do not happen to reside in the immediate vicinity of a given project are kept in the dark – inadvertently.

And there is no reason to do that.  Not in the age of instant free communications.  A sophisticated operation could also utilize email, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and even text messaging to get the word out to the public.

Such a system would be easy to implement if the city had someone to do it.

But it is more than just a communication tool, it is a public safety tool.  It is a means to get information to the public in the case of a real emergency.  We had a dry run a few years ago, when a big storm just after New Year’s knocked out power to large portions of Davis.  We needed to organize shelters and mobilize resources.  But the city lacked the infrastructure to do it effectively.  Luckily it was a fairly minor incident, but it could have been much worse.

The city currently relies on an Assistant City Manager as a media outreach person and, while she is competent and diligent, she is also not an expert.

The city really needs to revamp its public information department.  It has a website that is largely antiquated.  It does not have any interactive features.  It loses a ton by not engaging the public in debate and getting feedback from a very well-educated and active community.

The city has email lists for agendas that apparently have not worked in months, probably because no one is using them.

The city still discards its videos of council meetings after a given time, meaning that the debate and circumstances of the meetings that are not captured in the votes, the minutes, and the occasional newspaper article are lost.

And unfortunately, though all of this is a very easy fix to the city, and the interim City Manager is interested in improving communications and transparency, the city lacks the basic funding to hire someone to do these important jobs.

One effect, then, of the current structure of salaries, benefits, and pensions is that the city lacks the resources to modernize, to move outside of the 1990s and toward the social networking age.  How difficult would this be to implement?  Just about any teenager could manage the social networking angle, but developing the message and creating the system will take a professional communication individual.

The city needs a Public Information Official that is in charge of disseminating important information to the community and helping to get a community that is involved, even more involved.  But right now, that cannot happen.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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51 Comments

  1. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “The city needs a Public Information Official that is in charge of disseminating important information to the community and helping to get a community that is involved, even more involved.”

    Perhaps the city would prefer citizens not be so involved! LOL

    dmg: “The city has email lists for agendas that apparently have not worked in months, probably because no one is using them.”

    I am on the email list to receive updates of City Council and various commission agendas – but have not received updates for months. I talked to the city about it and was assured it would be taken care of, but nothing has happened so far. Is anyone else having this problem?

  2. Dr. Wu

    I think the lack of resources for the City Council is by far the biggest problem. $125,000 would not even cover the wages and benefits of many people on the planning staff–who are “planning” in a no growth or low growth city–its a joke. If we had a competent and unbiased staff, that might not be such a liability, but it is abundantly clear that we don’t.

    Our City Council has to make decisions involving a budget in the tens of millions–the water project will be over $100 million–but we have decided to be penny wise and pound foolish and give our City Council no resources.

  3. alanpryor

    I have not been getting Council or Commission agendas for some months either. I have sent 4 emails altogether to the webmaster and others but have not gotten a single reply.

  4. Justin Kudo

    I’m always intrigued by discussions of whether or not to pay elected officials or expand staff. I can’t tell you how often I hear about how the budget needs to be reduced and how elected officials “shouldn’t be getting paid” or should have a microscopic salary. A friend was saying that the Mayor of Sacramento shouldn’t be paid. I asked him, “Do you really want the Mayor to have a full-time job, and be the Mayor on the side?”

    What you have here is a problem of rhetoric vs. reality. Cutting positions and spending can have a dramatic and expensive effect on policy, but it sounds like a good idea in principle.

    Hadn’t heard about the e-mail thing. That is a major issue. I will ask my staff about it.

  5. Don Shor

    It has a website that is largely antiquated. It does not have any interactive features. It loses a ton by not engaging the public in debate and getting feedback from a very well-educated and active community.

    The web site is fine. You don’t need an interactive web site for city staff to try to manage. I don’t really think it is the job of city staff to engage in debate. That is for the council members.

    The city has email lists for agendas that apparently have not worked in months, probably because no one is using them.

    I don’t see why they city should maintain email lists for agendas at all. They are posted on the web site. It would be great if they would get the minutes of commissions up faster. But I see no need for emailing agendas when anybody can find them at [url]http://cityofdavis.org/meetings/index.cfm[/url]

    The city still discards its videos of council meetings after a given time, meaning that the debate and circumstances of the meetings that are not captured in the votes, the minutes, and the occasional newspaper article are lost.
    This is a reasonable concern. Perhaps somebody should volunteer to back up and archive this information.

    And unfortunately, though all of this is a very easy fix to the city, and the interim City Manager is interested in improving communications and transparency, the city lacks the basic funding to hire someone to do these important jobs.
    It costs money and seems like a really low priority to me. Perhaps on this era of limits we should not expect the city to provide us with services that we can manage other ways. Somebody is posting the agendas on the city web site. That is where I would look for them. Council members are the ones who would benefit from interactive communications. Let’s reserve city funding for actual emergencies and genuine public needs.

  6. Justin Kudo

    I have to disagree; I think maintaining e-mail lists for agendas is extremely important. Agendas can be released well in advance of meetings, but are often made available near their Brown Act deadline. It’s important to communicate the nature of these meetings to local citizens and give them as much time as possible to address any concerns they may have.

    This is especially important in the case of special meetings and emergency meetings, which only require one day or one hour of notification.

  7. E Roberts Musser

    Don Shor: “I don’t see why they city should maintain email lists for agendas at all. They are posted on the web site. It would be great if they would get the minutes of commissions up faster. But I see no need for emailing agendas when anybody can find them at http://cityofdavis.org/meetings/index.cfm

    Along with Justin Kudo’s excellent comment, I would also add the city invited citizens to join the email list so that citizens would receive agendas from the City Council and those Commissions they were interested in. The city apparently has suspended this service w/o notice – bc even city staff members think it is still available to citizens. Either provide it or don’t, but state clearly what the city is doing. My email agenda notices stopped not too long before the commission fiasco began. Because of my busy schedule, and assuming I was going to be notified as per usual, I did not check the city’s website for City Council agendas. The only reason I knew about it was bc of the warnings in this blog and our city staff liaison managed to get the word out to commissioners on our commission a few days before it was to come down in a City Council meeting. Very suspicious set of circumstances IMHO…

  8. JustSaying

    I agree with your diagnosis, David, particularly regarding the need for professional public information capability at City Hall. Much of the tension between citizens and staff/council would be reduced by proactive, timely, effective, two-way communication.

    Two cautions: 1. Expectations–Need to be sure everyone knows and agrees that such an operation’s purpose would be improving and increasing interchange rather than carrying out a public relations program. 2. New Target–Dunning would call it a wasteful PR operation, and David would complain that the [u]Enterprise[/u] is running even more unevaluated government news releases.

    By the way, my own personal irritation with the city website is the search feature that reports “no results” for most queries–because the default search is set to ignore pdf documents.

    With respect to support for the council, I’m a little conflicted. Of course, the council should have the staff assistance you suggest. But, would it be better to provide council members with help that they supervise or to expect the city manager to assign adequate help on a continuing basis? After all, they’re all on the same team, right? In any case, the council has adequate power to fix this one.

  9. JustSaying

    Once set up, the city’s site could have an opt-in for a variety of automatic options. Want a copy of specific agendas emailed? Or just a notice with the link when they’re posted? Or no-burn day notices as soon as the determination’s made? No problem; this is not rocket science on today’s internet.

  10. wdf1

    The city still discards its videos of council meetings after a given time, meaning that the debate and circumstances of the meetings that are not captured in the votes, the minutes, and the occasional newspaper article are lost.

    Does the public library keep an archive? Does Davis Media (DCTV) not archive city council meetings? DJUSD has its school board meeting broadcasts archived up to ~three years ago, so far. What would it cost to archive the broadcasts of the city council meeting? Is that a service that the Vanguard could provide? (sort of like becoming a local wikileaks!)

  11. Dr. Wu

    [quote]would it be better to provide council members with help that they supervise or to expect the city manager to assign adequate help on a continuing basis? [/quote]

    JustSaying: As a practical matter I think it helps to have staff who report directly to council members. Even if its just an intern I think that would help.

    City staff have their own loyalties/careers/agendas and this may conflict with council member’s wishes. I think giving council members some budget for staff would be a wise investment. I don’t think it needs to be large. Yes ideally everyone is on the same team, but we’ve seen how that sometimes works out.

  12. Rifkin

    [i]”The city still discards its videos of council meetings after a given time …”[/i]

    [b]”Does the public library keep an archive?”[/b]

    Yes, but only for a limited amount of time.

    David, do you know if anyone in the City’s Information Systems ([url]http://cityofdavis.org/cmo/is/[/url]) group has considered just uploading the council meeting videos to a free video-sharing site like blip.tv ([url]http://www.blip.tv/about/[/url]), which does not limit the size of the uploads?

    It seems to me that this is the best solution. The City won’t have to worry about how much storage space is being use or worry about managing the archives. They will simply have to have one person upload the videos after each meeting and then provide a link on the City website to retrieve them.

  13. Justin Kudo

    Rifkin: I would think that, and sites like that, are an issue due to advertising. The trick is that nothing’s free.

    Host all videos locally? In-house costs.
    Host videos on a pay video site? Outsourced costs.
    Host videos on youtube/blip.tv/whatever? Advertisements (not sure if this is an issue, though generation of money from these videos as well as forced advertising seems like it would break some sort of law), and many of these sites will only allow free hosting for personal uses.

    Maybe there is a simple solution. Just my experience that most things like this are a lot trickier than one might think. Yolo Co. outsources to Granicus. Solano Co. does it in-house I think.

  14. Rifkin

    There is no law against advertising, Justin. Think of all the advertising on outfield fences at local, public ballparks. Even some of the City’s newsletters in the past have been financed by paid ads.

    If you read my column on the topic, you know that I want the City to sell wall-space outside the new water tank (next to I-80 and Mace Blvd) to a billboard company for a few years. Then, use the advertising funds to pay for a permanent mural on the tank.

    Davis is loaded with great artists. I’m sure they could use the big bucks generated by a big Target or Coke ad on that tank for a few years. I know the Puritans in town hate that idea. But I think most people in Davis would have no problem with it for the short-term. It sure beats spending scarce tax dollars on the mural.

  15. 2cowherd

    I stopped getting Davis’ Commission and Council email reminders sometime this summer – BUT I am still getting Council meeting email reminders from the City of Woodland, AS WELL AS Woodland’s monthly electronic newsletter. One of the features of that newsletter is a monthly report of their water conservation efforts.

    How can Woodland still provide these services – but Davis can’t?

  16. E Roberts Musser

    2cowherd: “How can Woodland still provide these services – but Davis can’t?”

    Good question. And I think it is pretty suspicious that the email agendas stopped coming to the public right around the time when Saylor was beginning to move along “HIS AGENDA”, which included eliminating a number of commissions, among other controversial moves. The emailing of agendas stopped for me sometime in August. The decision to eliminate agendas came down in September. Too coincidental for my taste…

  17. Justin Kudo

    2cowherd: There are significant limitations to staff in Davis, largely to do with budget (and political) issues. That is really what this is all about. Do you want the city government to reinstate positions that were cut, and maybe even hire more folks? That money will have to come from somewhere else, and people will raise hell over it.

    Comparisons with other cities isn’t always a good idea. Woodland has various advantages. For example, they have over $5 million per year in General Fund money (I would assume due the the significantly higher commercial taxes per capita) more than Davis, despite having a smaller population to service.

    And Elaine, diverging into conspiracy theories really doesn’t do the community any good at all.

  18. Frankly

    “Comparisons with other cities isn’t always a good idea. Woodland has various advantages. For example, they have over $5 million per year in General Fund money (I would assume due to the significantly higher commercial taxes per capita) more than Davis, despite having a smaller population to service.”

    I think this makes an excellent reason to compare. Is one point that paradise always has its costs?

    I was on the Hawaii big island several weeks ago on business (yes, a lucky benefit of my job). Took some time to visit a Kona coffee plantation. Also talked to a guy that had launched a Hawaii cigar label. The coffee plantation is all organic, and the amount of addition operational costs associated with them retaining the “organic” certification is staggering. After four years of haggling the cigar dude finally got his license to produce and sell the product, but the taxes on local labor would have been so high to make the business non-viable. So, he ships all the raw materials to Nicaragua where they are rolled and boxed and shipped back to Hawaii to sell.

    Yes, paradise seems to have its cost. The different is that Davis is not Hawaii, and it would seem to have more in common with Woodland… would it not?

  19. Justin Kudo

    I meant in that context. What I’m trying to say is you can’t just look at “If _____ can do/afford this, we should be able to too.” It’s much more complicated than that.

    In essence we are agreeing with each other though. Davis policies make it a very nice place in many ways; I certainly like it a heck of a lot better than Woodland. But there are definitely consequences (good and bad) to certain policies on development, such as budgetary impacts.

    Back to the subject of e-mail notifications, I’m looking into it.

  20. Don Shor

    Jeff: “The coffee plantation is all organic, and the amount of addition operational costs associated with them retaining the “organic” certification is staggering.”
    Just so people understand, organic certification is voluntary and handled by private organizations. I assume they consider the value of the certification more than covers the added costs. I do believe USDA has funding programs that reimburse some of the cost of certification.
    I have suppliers who provide soil amendments that are entirely organic, but they choose not to seek the certification label because of the extra cost. Same goes for some of my vegetable and herb growers.

    Justin: Do you want the city government to reinstate positions that were cut, and maybe even hire more folks? That money will have to come from somewhere else.
    That really was my point at the start of this thread. Obviously if they are not going to provide the email service, they should announce that. But if the information is available online, I don’t see why people should expect staff to go the extra mile when there is less staff available.

  21. Frankly

    “Just so people understand, organic certification is voluntary and handled by private organizations.”

    According to what I learned, it is a combination of the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. I think the USDA also has requirements that must be met. It was funny listening to the farm owner complain about the requirements… for example, his compost piles required high-tech temperature probes and had to be analyzed every month. He griped, but still did the work because that was the type of business he wanted to be.

    However, you are correct in that there are Kona coffee producers that chose to not get certified to reduce their costs and sell to different markets. It is a true free market choice and I am completely behind that!

    My point was probably too abstract here. It was… Davis = organic, green, sustainable… all costing much more. Paradise has a cost.

  22. E Roberts Musser

    Don Shor: “That really was my point at the start of this thread. Obviously if they are not going to provide the email service, they should announce that. But if the information is available online, I don’t see why people should expect staff to go the extra mile when there is less staff available.”

    Why no notification of the cessation of this “service”? The system was already set up and working smoothly. I doubt there was much for anyone to have to do in the way of upkeep – I assume it was a computer program already written, debugged and in place operating correctly. Someone can correct me if I am wrong. So why suddenly stop the emails w/o notification to the public? If the email notifications were stopped bc some city staff member was let go or had too many other duties to contend with, why not notify the public that this service would no longer be available? Yet many of us got caught somewhat flat-footed about the issue of “merging of commissions” bc we did not get email notifications as we normally would have expected. And it is important to note, the commission issue was to be decided in one evening, and would have eliminated a third of the city’s commissioners.

  23. David M. Greenwald

    We’re talking about clicking a button. The Vanguard articles are online and fully available. A lot of people go directly to the site. That does not mean I do not post the articles on Facebook and a lot of people only read them on Facebook. It does not mean I don’t send out an email each morning letting people know the articles.

    People have busy lives and won’t think to look. That’s why I sign up for things like email lists and RSS feeds so that when new material comes available, it lands in the place I am most likely to look.

    The council wants to move towards more of these things rather than less, or at least the ones I have spoken to, so my guess is that this gets fixed shortly.

  24. E Roberts Musser

    And just as an aside, I’m going to make an observation. Is this really about “city resources” (no more emails about agendas)? We have city staff working diligently on development – at a time when development is not wanted/is not economically viable. We have the city working on projects the city cannot afford right now(Zipcar, sports park, water tank art).

  25. Justin Kudo

    Update: Staffers that I talked to were unaware there were service problems with e-mail notifications for meetings. They asked for e-mails (preferably) or phone calls from people who were not receiving updates, and at least the ones I talked to said they had not received anything from anybody about the issue until I brought it up.

    And again, please drop the conspiracy theory junk, it just degrades meaningful civil discourse.

  26. E Roberts Musser

    Justin: “Update: Staffers that I talked to were unaware there were service problems with e-mail notifications for meetings. They asked for e-mails (preferably) or phone calls from people who were not receiving updates, and at least the ones I talked to said they had not received anything from anybody about the issue until I brought it up.”

    I notified city staff twice about this problem as far back as Sept. Nothing done thus far and it is now the end of Nov… the city certainly knows about the problem now…

    dmg: “People have busy lives and won’t think to look. That’s why I sign up for things like email lists and RSS feeds so that when new material comes available, it lands in the place I am most likely to look.”

    Just for curiosity’s sake, does it take you a lot of extra trouble to send out your morning email message to Vanguard readers? I’m assuming a simple email message to a list of people does not take a humongous amount of effort – it is a pre-programmed process, that once set in motion, pretty much takes care of itself…

  27. David M. Greenwald

    I’d say about five minutes at most. For them, it’s would be even less time. I have to copy and paste the new content in. They only have to create an email with the link/ attachment in it.

  28. Rifkin

    Re: no longer sending out email notifications of city meetings–

    I was told by a city staffer (this morning) that it’s a software issue, not a personnel issue. Due to budget issues, they have not yet had the system fixed.

  29. Don Shor

    David: I’d say about five minutes at most

    There are 21 commissions, plus the city council, and the council 2 x 2’s. Which staffer would you suggest be responsible for this once the software is fixed?

  30. David M. Greenwald

    I suspect the staff who does the agenda, sends out the email. The five minutes was btw, in reference to how long it takes me to send out my blast.

    Also we are talking about four or five emails a week at most, so even if it were one person it would not take a long time.

  31. Frankly

    The city should just subscribe to a hosted listsev, and put the link to join on their website. Listserv hosting is inexpensive, and all the software service and support is the responsibility of the hosting company. The technology should not be an issue. The only real cost/resource issue should be the time needed to develop the content of the emails. On this I am not sure how much scrubbing would be required of the content already produced for the council and other city emplpoyees, verses what would be appropriate for public consumption. The resource costs would be attributable to the amount of content scrubbing and unique content development… it should not be the cost of the technology because it is very cheap these days.

  32. E Roberts Musser

    Justin Kudo: “Update: Staffers that I talked to were unaware there were service problems with e-mail notifications for meetings. They asked for e-mails (preferably) or phone calls from people who were not receiving updates, and at least the ones I talked to said they had not received anything from anybody about the issue until I brought it up.”

    Rifkin: “I was told by a city staffer (this morning) that it’s a software issue, not a personnel issue. Due to budget issues, they have not yet had the system fixed.”

    City staffers said they knew nothing about it and want people to notify them if they are not receiving updates; to another city staffers said it was a software issue that cannot be fixed bc of a lack of funds. Well folks, I would say make sure you check the agendas yourself, bc I doubt the city is going to fix this problem anytime soon for whatever reason… but it would be nice if the city staff could get its stories straight…

  33. hpierce

    [quote]but it would be nice if the city staff could get its stories straight… [/quote]

    there are over 400 “city staff”… do you honestly expect that each staff member know everything about what’s going on in the city? Or if good citizens like you ask the question of a staff member who doesn’t happen to know the answer, do you expect them to drop whatever else they are doing to answer your question by seeking out the folks who do? There’s a big clue in the answer “software issue”… how many of you, in the private or public sector, are fully apprised of your ‘information services’ issues or activities?

  34. E Roberts Musser

    hpierce: “there are over 400 “city staff”… do you honestly expect that each staff member know everything about what’s going on in the city? Or if good citizens like you ask the question of a staff member who doesn’t happen to know the answer, do you expect them to drop whatever else they are doing to answer your question by seeking out the folks who do? There’s a big clue in the answer “software issue”… how many of you, in the private or public sector, are fully apprised of your ‘information services’ issues or activities?”

    The city staffer I talked to indicated s/he would get the problem taken care of and get back to me. Nothing happened. Twice. I would assume if the service is down bc of a software glitch that cannot be fixed bc of a lack in funding (even tho there is funding for all sorts of other useless things), the city would at least send out notification to the public via an article in the Davis Enterprise, or notify all staff in case citizens ask, that sort of thing. I consider it a matter of professionalism… just my opinion…

  35. wdf1

    The city staffer I talked to indicated s/he would get the problem taken care of and get back to me. Nothing happened. Twice.

    I consider it a matter of professionalism… just my opinion…

    Agreed. Or at least get back to you to explain why it will take longer, if that’s the case.

  36. hpierce

    [quote]The city staffer I talked to indicated s/he would get the problem taken care of [u]and get back to me. Nothing happened. Twice.[/u] [/quote]

    The nuance of being promised that it would be fixed is a problem if the employee lacks the skill, resources, and/or authority to follow through and ‘deliver’.
    Having the contact twice with the same staffer with no contact (as wdf1 said, even to say there will be delays) is definitely a problem… consider letting someone one step higher in the ‘food chain’ know about this.
    I had not picked up those nuances in the earlier posts.

  37. wdf1

    A little off topic:

    News story on the happiest places on Earth. This story says that the happiest place on Earth isn’t Disneyland, but the socialist bastion, Denmark. Happiest place in the U.S. is David Greenwald’s one-time home, San Luis Obispo. This story does suggest that Davis may have some characteristics that could help keep it in the running.

    [url]http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_weekend/20101125/ts_yblog_weekend/welcome-to-the-happiest-place-in-america[/url]

  38. Frankly

    wdf1: This subject came up before on another article. I did a little research checking a suspicion I had. Of course there are other criteria – as this article suggests – however there is strong correlation with a location’s level of happiness and its population density. This make sense… maybe similar to the reason so many want to reduce class sizes. It is more likely a person will get more personal attention when there are less competing for that attention.

  39. E Roberts Musser

    How does anyone statistically measure “happiness”? How do you define “happiness”?

    This puts me in mind of a quote that goes something like this: “Happiness is not a destination, but the experience of the journey along the way…”

  40. wdf1

    JB: This subject came up before on another article. I did a little research checking a suspicion I had. Of course there are other criteria – as this article suggests – however there is strong correlation with a location’s level of happiness and its population density.

    Other cities mentioned in the piece included Monterrey, Mexico, Singapore, and San Luis Obispo. Do those locations fit with your hypothesis?

    How does anyone statistically measure “happiness”? How do you define “happiness”?

    This puts me in mind of a quote that goes something like this: “Happiness is not a destination, but the experience of the journey along the way…”

    Well, whatever happiness is, it’s our inalienable right to pursue it, according to Thomas Jefferson, with the concurrence of a bunch of other smart white men more than two hundred years ago. Whether you actually achieve happiness is another matter.

  41. wdf1

    JB: Because we’ve been a few days without new articles, I’ll take the liberty to go further off topic, here.

    Today’s Sac Bee (“that liberal rag!”) has a couple of pieces about immigration and politics, one about the suffering California Republican party.

    This article suggests that it’s the established U.S. citizens who may be more of the moochers (to use the Randian terminology that you’ve used), and the immigrants who are more willing to be the producers. I think you will be hardpressed to find an unemployed college educated person, solidly several generations in the middle class citizenry, who would be willing to pick tomatoes, shovel shit, dig ditches, sew garments, and do factory work at the required market rate. But immigrants will:

    Viewpoint: Fear, anger drive Latinos away from Republicans:

    [url]http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/28/3214035/fear-anger-drive-latinos-away.html[/url]

    Here’s another piece on the DREAM act:

    [url]http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/28/3214064/dream-act-holds-promise-of-economic.html[/url]

  42. Frankly

    “This article suggests that it’s the established U.S. citizens who may be more of the moochers (to use the Randian terminology that you’ve used), and the immigrants who are more willing to be the producers.”

    There is validity to that point… but for the change in the demographics of Latino immigrants over the years. The Bee article, like most articles attempting some objective persuasion toward the good of Latino immigration, fails to address the overwhelming numbers of un-assimilated Latinos that have flooded here since The Immigration Act of 1965 and since Reagan implemented amnesty.

    Reagan was pandering to the Latino vote… the very thing you suggest.

    When I was a young man, I worked on a ranch and in construction and it paid a better wage than the typical student service job. Fast forward 30 years, and even during the housing boom, there were few of these jobs available that paid more than minimum wage. The left political template is that regular Americans do not want to do these jobs. I completely disagree. Out of control immigration has provided an oversupply of low-skilled labor which has driven down wages and stigmatized these jobs as being for Latinos only. It has wiped out this segment of the job market for young Americans… especially young males who currently are the largest block of unemployed.

    Statistics on Immigrants:
    •1 in 5 low-wage workers;
    •1 in 2 new workers;
    •1 in 4 poor children is the child of an immigrant;
    •1 in 3 children without health insurance is in an immigrant family;
    •Immigrant workers are much more likely than natives to drop out of high school (30 versus 8 percent);
    •Immigrant workers are far more likely to have less than a ninth-grade education (18 versus 1 percent for natives);
    •Three-fourths of all U.S. workers with less than a ninth-grade education are immigrants;
    •Nearly two-thirds of low-wage immigrant workers do not speak English proficiently, and most of these workers have had little formal education;
    •Two of every five low-wage immigrant workers are undocumented. Labor force participation is higher among undocumented men than among men who are legal immigrants or U.S. citizens;

    I can’t wrap my mind around the fact so many intelligent people continue to argue in support of our current immigration situation. The only explanation I can come up with is that the partisan political benefit makes them blind to, or uncaring of, the obvious social and economic costs. We are flooding our population with more on the lower socio-economic end… increasing the ratio of: poor to prosperous, moocher to producer, criminal to lawful, uneducated to educated, Spanish speaking to English speaking, Mexican culture to American culture. All of this would be fine if we had the ability to assimilate them… but we don’t. There are too many. We ignored the problems when the economy was strong and we had visions of being able to maintain a level of feel-good charity. Now we are looking at decades of low growth and high deficits. Our youth – already impacted by fewer jobs and lower wages – are going to also pay for our decades of feel-good charity with higher taxes and continued fewer job prospects and lower wages.

  43. E Roberts Musser

    JB: “I can’t wrap my mind around the fact so many intelligent people continue to argue in support of our current immigration situation.”

    I’m not certain that intelligent people “continue to argue in support of our current immigration status”. I think there is just disagreement on HOW to address the issue… AZ has its way (new more stringent state “immigration” laws), San Francisco, CA has its way (sanctuary city), Pres. Reagan had his way (amnesty), Bush proposed his way (guest worker program), etc.

  44. Frankly

    “I think there is just disagreement on HOW to address the issue”

    This is a much better point than I was making. However, “HOW” to address the issue seems clear enough to me. So, I see the opposition to the “how” as just being supportive of the status quo. For example: no reduction in social services for illegals, no profiling, no new ID cards, no local law enforcement policing for illegal status, no border fence, no deportation and no change to prevent anchor babies. The only solution apparently supported by the left is to police and fine business (I guess profiling certain businesses is okay, but not profiling the workers themselves). The problem with this is that it saddles business with yet another regulatory cost, and sets them up for trial lawyers to sue for employee discrimination. I think many on the left know this and it is why they support it… because they know it will feed the trial lawyers and ultimately fail to make a dent in the illegal immigration flow.

    My thinking: send the US military to the southern border and tell Calderon he has 90 days to stanch the flow or we will invade Mexico and take over as a new colony of the US. We should do this to prevent parts of the US from becoming proxy colonies of Mexico. This should slow or stop the drug traffic. Also, we can use the Mexican oil.

  45. wdf1

    fails to address the overwhelming numbers of un-assimilated Latinos that have flooded here since The Immigration Act of 1965 and since Reagan implemented amnesty.

    What do you think is an acceptable number of Latino immigrants?

    I find it interesting that in this case you, as apparently a libertarian conservative, see immigration control as an acceptable form of government intervention in the economy.

  46. Frankly

    “I find it interesting that in this case you, as apparently a libertarian conservative, see immigration control as an acceptable form of government intervention in the economy.”

    Good point. Note though, I am not one those “no government” libertarians. I am more of a constitutional libertarian, and I view protecting the borders as a constitutional responsibility. I see government as primarily responsible for protections that ensure freedom of citizens to pursue life, liberty and happiness… above all other responsibilities and exclusive of many things others think the government should do. Islamic terrorists impact my freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Illegal immigration also impacts my freedom to pursue these things to some degree. The US government should protect the economy for the benefit of US citizens. Illegal immigration distorts the free market (if you factor that the labor is, in fact, illegal) and I am a free market advocate.

    Contrasting your good point, I find it interesting that the left – having co-opted labor as their political ally – would benefit from taking positions to block any meaningful illegal immigration prevention and remedy. Since wages and the supply of job opportunities are depressed by an oversupply of workers, and since terrorist can easily cross the border, you would think Democrats would suffer politically with this position.

    However, there are two reasons I think this strategy has worked for Democrats: One – I think the left has done a good job directing labor anger at business and then connecting business with the GOP. Two – I think Americans are short-sighted and forgetful beasts, and cannot remember the horror of 9-11 and imagine it can happen again.

    On the first reason: as more Americans get over their irrational anger over the economy… recognize: economies are cyclical; government had a huge hand in the collapse of the real estate and financial markets; Wall Street donates as much to Democrats as Republicans; Obama is in bed with business as much as any President; beating up business is biting the hand that feeds… Democrats will start losing more of the labor vote. This is already happening as more left-moderates jump the Dem ship and some even join the Tea Party.

    One the second reason: all we need is a terrorist truck bomb to go off in a busy commuter tunnel… or something similar… and Democrats will suffer politically for their role blocking border protection.

    From these two points, I think the GOP is correct in its strategy to block policy changes and wait… unfortunately.

  47. wdf1

    The US government should protect the economy for the benefit of US citizens. Illegal immigration distorts the free market (if you factor that the labor is, in fact, illegal) and I am a free market advocate.

    You would prefer an internal free market in the U.S., but strong protectionism from the negative effects of global trade/NAFTA/WTO?

    It seems that labor is as much a commodity as widgets in the context of NAFTA. Seems that choices you have are to import cheap labor to the U.S., export those jobs to other countries where labor is cheap, and/or shut off the domestic immigrant labor market and pay higher wages where you still need those jobs domestically.

    Here’s an interesting example of some farmers, who might otherwise find some political affinity with Republicans, might resent too strong of an anti-immigration policy that some Republican politicians would like to promote:

    [url]http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130840422[/url]

    all we need is a terrorist truck bomb to go off in a busy commuter tunnel

    I’m as personally concerned about terrorists that are more homegrown — Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kozinski, the Atlanta Olympic bomber. I remember after the Oklahoma City bombing and the Olympic bombing that the initial fear was that it might be foreign terrorists. All three had violent, anti-government axes to grind in one way or another.

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